Crime & Courts

Ex-SEAL with CIA ties on way to Italy when arrested, sources say

The front door at 3905 Rosewood Drive, with a hole bashed in near the lock.
The front door at 3905 Rosewood Drive, with a hole bashed in near the lock. tkulmala@thestate.com

Three men, including a former Navy SEAL with CIA ties, waived a preliminary hearing in federal court in Columbia on Thursday, a decision that will keep them in jail for the foreseeable future.

The former SEAL, James “J.D.” Smith, 49, was arrested Saturday at Charlotte International Airport. He was getting off a plane and was on his way to Italy for a vacation, sources familiar with the case said. A highly decorated SEAL who saw action in Iraq, Smith also worked as a special agent for the CIA, other sources said earlier.

The other two men, brothers Bryon Rye, 43, and Carl Rye, 41, also were arrested Saturday by federal Drug Enforcement Agency teams in a daytime raid on a house at 3905 Rosewood Drive, near Beltline Boulevard.

If the three men had gone through with a preliminary hearing, assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Garner would have been required to put up evidence before Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges showing the government had a case.

As it was, nothing surfaced in court.

Allegations in a federal complaint indicate that for three years, Smith flew his twin-engine Cessna into Columbia’s Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport and other S.C. airports and delivered loads of marijuana to the Rye brothers, who sold it to small dealers.

At least some of the drug was legally grown medical marijuana from California, according to the complaint.

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